‘Tis the season for friends, family, festivity, and food. Lots of mouth-watering can’t stop eating, just one more bite, comfort food. If you’re like us, you’re getting hungry just thinking about the delicious desserts and savory sides that accompany the holiday season. But we aren’t rookies. While buttery mashed potatoes, juicy turkey smothered in gravy and pumpkin pie with a side of eggnog might make us feel warm and fuzzy inside, the holiday menu can also bring with it other less desirable gifts we’d prefer to avoid during the “happiest time of the year”.
Thankfully, Americans on average only gain about one to two pounds during the holidays. While this doesn’t sound dramatic, research shows it adds up over the years. Therefore, mindful eating habits are key before we move into the holidays to ensure a joyous season leading us guilt-free into the New Year. Whether your more likely to eat out with friends and family or enjoy one too many five course meals at home, we’ve got six quick tips to help decrease guilt and increase your energy through this holiday season.
1. Listen to your parents and eat those fruits and vegetables!
Vegetables tend to be high in nutrients and fiber creating the one-two punch for healthy eating. Place them on your plate first to fill up on the good stuff that will keep your body running smoothly. If you’re attending a holiday party, consider bringing your favorite dish of non-starchy veggies to feast on.
But wait! Don’t forget about the gorgeous seasonal fruits like pomegranates, mandarin oranges, and red grapefruit. Not only are they at peak season for premium quality and flavor, but they are also packed with nutrients to support your mind and body during the holidays.
2. Heck yes or heck no.
Just because it’s a special treat doesn’t mean you have to eat it. Garlic mashed potatoes and creamy macaroni and cheese will still be around in January, we promise. Be picky with what you put on your plate. If some dishes on the table are not foods you absolutely love (heck yes!) then skip them this round. Just because they’re on the table doesn’t mean you need to indulge. Side of guilt, no thank you!
Remember, it takes 20 minutes for your brain to get the signal that you’ve had enough food. Put down your fork in between bites and enjoy the food you love to allow for more time to pass and your mind to get the message.
3. Don’t let your food touch.
A silly but good reminder. While small plates are a popular portion control technique, you can also avoid the mound of food on your plate by keeping space between the different dishes. Then, pop a sugar-free mint in your mouth to curb overeating! The minty fresh taste will shift your taste buds and focus to the conversation (hopefully good) at the table allowing you to move on from the meal.
4. Breakfast, lunch, and dinner.
Enjoy healthy snacks like raw veggies, nuts, and fruit throughout the day to avoid a full-blown gorgefest. Hunger causes a drop in blood sugar and increased cortisol levels leading to cravings for fatty, salty, and sugary foods. Curb the cravings by eating regular meals throughout the day focused on fiber-rich treats (fruit, vegetables, and nuts) that will satisfy your belly with a lower calorie count.
5. Dilute your drinks.
Do you really like eggnog or the other holiday drinks? Just because it’s limited doesn’t mean you have to have it. If it’s not a heck yes, say no thank you (see tip #2 above).
If you enjoy alcohol with your festivities, alternate between water and alcohol to avoid the not-so-happy holiday hangover. Soda water makes a great mixer to reduce calories. For added detoxification, try adding ginger or lemon! Make sure you're staying hydrated by drink half your body weight in water. For example, if you weigh 160 pounds, aim for 80 ounces (or 10 8 oz. glasses) of water over the course of the day.
6. Stay active.
There are a bunch of studies that say taking a brisk 15-20 minute walk after a meal can help ease digestion and stabilize blood sugar levels. Not to mention, doing so can make up for eating more than usual while reducing any unwanted holiday stress.
Can’t get out after the meal? Before you allow yourself a splurge, do something healthy, like eating a piece of fruit, walking around your home for five minutes, or climbing the stairs a few times. Tell yourself that all the running around you’re doing (cleaning for house guests, dashing through a million stores to find the perfect gift) can help keep your weight in check. In a Harvard study, people who were simply told that they did enough in their daily lives to meet the surgeon general’s recommendations lost weight and body fat without consciously changing a thing. Why? Positive thinking works.
The idea of healthy holiday eating can make people anxious so try not to get too worked up. This season should be a time of celebration and relaxation. File it under sad-but-true: You can gain weight while eating healthy. Therefore, make sure you're not eating something based solely on its healthy attraction and keep a keen eye on your portion sizes.
Leave your elastic waistbands and loose clothing that encourage overeating in the closet. Sit next to a fellow healthy eater for strength in numbers or saddle up next to your friend who eats slowly. If you do happen to eat more than you planned during this holiday season, don't beat yourself up. Abandon those negative voices in your head, give yourself permission to enjoy the indulgence guilt-free, and then remember to get back on track with your normal routine the next day to prevent your slip from ending in a fall.